Sophomore lefthander Jason Cozzi has been tough on hitters all season, whether Bridgewater-Raritan coach Max Newill slots him in as a starter or brings him in out of the pen.
On Tuesday at Watchung Hills, Cozzi was simply unhittable.
Cozzi tossed a five-inning no-hitter, striking out two and walking two as red-hot Bridgewater-Raritan (16-3) won its sixth straight game, 10-0, over Watchung Hills in Warren.
Cozzi is a handful with his fastballs and off-speed stuff but he relied on his two- and four-seam fastballs in this one and was certainly smart enough to lean on what was working best.
“My command of my two and four-seamers was good,” said Cozzi, basking in the glow of the gem a day later and just a couple hours after his team’s opening round victory over Columbia in the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 tournament extended the Panthers winning streak to seven games.
The five-inning no-hitter may not have the luster of a seven-inning gem, but Cozzi did stifle a very good Watchung Hills team that stands at 13-8 after its first round NJSIAA state tournament victory over Perth Amboy on Wednesday.
“That’s a solid hitting team and Jason went right at them,” said Bridgewater-Raritan coach Max Newill. “He induced a lot of weak contact, getting a bunch of fly balls and ground balls.”
The 6-2, 195-pound Cozzi certainly didn’t complicate things.
“I didn’t throw a lot of off-speed because they weren’t getting around on my fastball,” he said.
The lefty Cozzi gets a lot of good natural movement on his fastballs which indicates he likely has had an uptick in velocity since being clocked in the low 80s last summer. “I get a lot of good movement from the left side and my two-seam cuts,” he said.
“Jason has thrown just a handful of off speed pitches this season,” said Newill. “He pounds the zone with fastballs. Other coaches have told me their hitters have a hard time picking his ball up. His effective velocity is more than his actual velocity. He hides the ball well and he is long. He is unusual that he comes over the top. Most lefties are three-quarters. It’s a different look for batters.”
So efficient was Cozzi that he carried a perfect game into the fifth inning before issuing a pair of walks, the first coming to the leadoff batter in the bottom of the seventh. He induced a fly out to center field for the first out, got a force-out at second base for the second out, then issued his second walk. But Cozzi induced a 6-4 force-out to secure the no-hitter.
Cozzi went to 3-2 counts before issuing each walk, so the perfect game was a razor’s edge away. He threw just 59 pitches, which makes him eligible for some relief work if necessary on Saturday when the Panthers play host to Skyland Conference rival Ridge in the state sectional quarterfinals.
“I’m pitching to contact,” said Cozzi. “I’m definitely very happy with my performance and what my team did behind me. Matty Smoke, at third base, gets the golden glove. And my team scored five runs in the top of the first. That was very comforting.”
Cozzi took the mound with that 5-0 lead in the bottom of the first and never looked back.
“Jason had a tough start against North Hunterdon (May 19) but rebounded against Ridge and carried that to the Watchung Hills game,” said Newill. “It’s good to see a young pitcher bounce back after struggling. They aren’t always able to flush it.”
Cozzi did flush that ragged performance and put two strong outings together to right himself. He now gives the Panthers some serious pitching depth heading into the quarterfinals. Cozzi’s lone relief stint came against Roxbury on April 23 when he pitched a scoreless top of the seventh and the Panthers won the game in the bottom of the seventh.
Senior righty Anthony Scarlatta (4-1) will get the nod on Saturday and Cozzi (6-0) and fellow sophomore Noah Matheson (5-1) will back him up if necessary.
Cozzi, who plays for the Diamond Jacks Super 16 in the summer, has permitted just 11 hits and five earned runs in 25.2 innings.
Thanks you to Kathy Chen for the excellent photos above.